Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wherein I Predict the Oscars

At this time tomorrow, all the little golden naked dudes will have been handed out and I'll hopefully be in the midst of a decent wine buzz and fresh off an Oscar pool win. I haven't won in a few years, so I think I'm due. However, this year is also one of the hardest to call in recent memory (and this is coming from someone who's seen nearly everything). I've only got three of the major eight categories as "locks" -- Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. The other categories are about as perplexing as Inception's plot or Black Swan's ending. However it shakes out, this could turn out to be something of a crossroads for the Acedemy -- do they go with the more modern, unique pictures (The Social Network, Inception, etc.), or stick with the same old Oscar-bait prestige pictures (The King's Speech, True Grit, etc.)? Here's hoping for the former, not only for my ballot's sake, but for filmmaking in general. Here's hoping the Academy gets with the times. Onto the major category picks (technicals in the next, less wordy, post):

*indicates a performance/film I have not seen
bold indicates my pick

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christian Bale - The Fighter
John Hawkes - Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech

This is close to a lock, but I have this sickening feeling that a King's Speech night is more than possible. Should that worst-case scenario come to pass, I could see Rush winning this one (for a performance that I actually quite liked). He's Bale's only real competition here. I was overjoyed to see Hawkes nominated -- I'd been calling his performance Oscar-worthy since I first saw the movie -- but he'll have to settle for the WTF? nomination. Renner is about as tall as an Oscar statue, although his character's presence was much larger in The Town. A solid performance, but not one I'm sure I'd have nominated. Ditto Ruffalo, an actor I almost always like -- not the case in Kids, although I mostly blame that on a sitcom-level script that basically neutered his character (more on that later). I'd much rather have seen Andrew Garfield nominated for The Social Network. All that said, Bale deserves this award for what I really hope was a method, not meth, performance in The Fighter and for consummate professionalism over the years.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom*

This is one of the most wide-open categories, and my "wild card" pick. My rationale - Adams is here because she's been nominated before, and Weaver is the John Hawkes-esque WTF? nod. Neither have a shot. Bonham Carter was good, but has relatively few stateside precursors (again though, beware the potential King's Speech juggernaut). Leo was solid, and the Academy seems to have some love for the film, but a) she rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with the ads she took out in the trades, b) I still see vote-splitting with Adams, and c) the Academy has more love for True Grit, to the tune of 10 total noms to 8. Sometimes, you have to go where the nominations are. Can a film with 10 noms get snubbed in every major category for which it's nominated (which most projections seem to suggest)? Sure, it could, but I doubt it will. I don't see it winning Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Director, or Picture, so that leaves this admittedly wide-open category. I predicted Tilda Swinton here a few years ago by this same logic, so let's hope it works again.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Anette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine

This is one of the few locks -- no one seriously expects anyone but Portman to win here. There was a time when Bening was considered a legitimate contender, but her support has subsided as the buzz around Kids has worn off (thank god). I wish more people had seen Rabbit Hole -- both Kidman and costar Aaron Eckhart were excellent. Poor marketing, I guess. Williams was solid (and naked) in an emotionally-demanding role in Valentine, although I'm not sure her character's motivations were ever made clear. Lawrence was a force in Winter's Bone and perhaps someone to keep an eye on, although the same thing was said about Ellen Page a few years back (and she's done squat since Juno). Portman's got this one (and Best Achievement in Getting Your Box Mowed -- although Williams is close) locked up tighter than her character's legs.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Javier Bardem - Biutiful
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
James Franco - 127 Hours

This one looks like a lock as well, similar to last year's race. Firth, the respected vet, will finally get his statue. Truth be told, I thought he was actually better last year in A Single Man, but there was a definite gravitas to his performance in Speech that is Oscar-worthy. Not as Oscar-worthy as, say, Eisenberg or, especially Franco (in my favorite male lead performance of the year), but they're young whippersnappers who'll have to wait their turn (Franco will be back; not sure about Eisenberg though -- the perfect storm of actor and role). Bardem was haunting as a husband and father, well, haunted by his past -- and I totally called that he'd be the fifth nominee (you'll just have to trust me though). Bridges was solid for sure, but I think his nomination would have been better served going to someone like Eckhart or, hell, even Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island (actually kind of disappointed it didn't get any recognition from AMPAS -- not surprised, just disappointed).

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published:
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy - 127 Hours
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network
Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich - Toy Story 3
Joel and Ethan Coen - True Grit
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini - Winter's Bone

Our last lock -- and the most deserving, in my opinion. Sorkin's script for The Social Network is probably the best individual piece of any filmmaking from this past year. An absolutely flawless script, multi-layered and poignant, all from material considered to be "unfilmable." A total screenwriting gem. Of the other nominees, Toy Story 3's script is easily the most impressive (and probably the only of them that I'd actually have nominated). While I enjoyed both films, I can't say that 127 Hours or Winter's Bone were especially impressive from a script standpoint. As far as True Grit goes, I really didn't like it at all. I'm not sure if it was a flaw in the script or what, but every line fell totally flat on my ears, like the actors were instructed to read as if auditioning for a high school play. I don't know, but it was fucking terrible -- and I'm almost always a Coen apologist. I just didn't see it this year guys, sorry. This is another spot I would have liked to have seen some love for Rabbit Hole or Shutter Island.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen:
Mike Leigh - Another Year*
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington - The Fighter
Christopher Nolan - Inception
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg - The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler - The King's Speech

This one really pains me, because I really liked Nolan's script -- flawed, yes, but it's one of the year's true original ideas. A totally ambitious, complex, and damn-near genius script. Again, you have to go where the noms are though, and Speech has 12 of 'em -- the most of any film. Inception had 8, sure, but they were mostly in the technical categories -- Nolan getting snubbed for director (again) probably ensured a loss here. Speech had a solid script, but I can't be too impressed by an original screenplay so deeply rooted in documented history (and you'd have to think the eponymous speeches were historically accurate and therefore not "original," right?). It doesn't seem to be deserving, I don't see Inception winning, so what does that leave us with? I won't comment on Another Year because I haven't seen it -- but who else has? Certainly not enough Academy members to put it over the top. The Fighter? Again, too much historical basis and the underdog story practically tells itself. Yawn. That leaves The Kids Are All Right, which I don't (and haven't since I saw it) get. Seriously, the whole script is like some rejected Showtime pilot. Bening and Moore are great in the film, but I cannot for the LIFE of me fathom why **SPOILERS** Moore's character would sleep with her children's biological (sperm-donor) father. Asinine. And half the shit that comes out of Ruffalo's mouth thereafter is laughable. His character is completely castrated. Ugh. This is usually one of my favorite categories, but it's a weak field this year. Truly hoping Inception pulls it off, but I doubt it. (Oh yeah, and where's Black Swan??)

Best Achievement in Directing:
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Joel and Ethan Coen - True Grit
David Fincher - The Social Network
Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
David O. Russell - The Fighter

While I'd be pissed if Speech wins Picture over The Social Network, I'd be positively apoplectic if Hooper beats Fincher here. I've had my issues (well, issue) with Fincher in the past (see: Benjamin Button, The Way Too Fucking Long Case of), but he completely and totally deserves this award. It's like Danny Boyle a couple years back -- a long overdue statue for a now-ascended filmmaker. Fight Club and, especially, Zodiac were marvelous, but The Social Network is Fincher's crowning achievement -- just about a perfect film. Fincher's cinematic wizardry perfectly compliments Sorkin's kinetic wordplay. Of the rest of the nominees, Hooper appears to be the main challenger, although I have no idea why -- Fincher's right ball could have directed that cast to awards nominations. I almost wish Aronofsky was getting more buzz, because Black Swan was pretty freaking excellent. I think he's in a similar position to Fincher when he made Zodiac a few years ago though -- he'll get his soon. The Coens have a lifetime pass to Oscar nominations, it seems, and Russell is deserving (although I wasn't as impressed with the film as the Academy clearly was).Truthfully, I would have much rather Nolan was nominated than either of those two, or even someone like Boyle or Lee Unkrich for Toy Story 3.

Best Motion Picture of the Year:
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Cue Chris Parnell in Anchorman when the panda story is announced: "This is a big one." Monumental, even. The Academy has fucked up before (duh), and recently -- A Beautiful Mind over Fellowship and Crash over Brokeback (and both of those over the far superior Munich) come to mind -- but this one would hurt the most. Like, "I'm boycotting the Oscars next year" hurt. It would be unconscionable, if not quite unfathomable, for The King's Speech (or, if you're Roger Ebert, True Grit) to beat out The Social Network. Let's see, would you rather have formulaic, uninteresting, and irrelevant, or would you rather have unique, fascinating, and topical? The answer seems obvious, but the Academy can be remarkably out of touch at times. Let's hope this isn't one of them. Recognize the truly important film, not the stuffy, self-important one, AMPAS. Do it for the kids (even if they can't get away from their damned computers and/or smart phones). The Social Network is far and away the best film of the year, and it deserves the statue to go with it.

End ramble. Here's hoping for 8-for-8. Up next: the rest of the categories, quick-pick style.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, I agree with almost everything you say. Franco and Eisenberg's youth will count against them. Still not sure Firth deserves it. And A Single Man was complete garbage - pretentious, rambling garbage (or trash, as you American folk prefer).

    I'd forgotten about Shutter Island - certainly worth a nod somewhere. And poor DiCaprio - two stellar performances in one year and not even a nomination.

    Good shout on Black Swan re:best original screenplay. wtf? I'm genuinely worried about that category. If King's Speech wins, I'm moving to Libya. Not sure why, I just am. Same re:best picture. A "get it right or screw you" moment for the Oscars.